It’s time for EVs, often derided for the lack of feel, unable to evoke emotions that are associated with conventionally powered cars, to come out of the rut and do something unordinary. With the ever-evolving battery tech, things like range anxiety have virtually become topics of the past, especially with new models. The zero tailpipe emissions have worked well for these, and with improvements made in production, there’s a strong chance that EVs will continue to be the flag-bearers of green and clean motoring. But beyond the lightning-quick 0-100 times and availability to instantaneous torque, are they actually fun? We find that out with what’s being promised to be a fun EV — the Hyundai IONIQ 5 N.

More emphasis on the alphabetical suffix, because that changes everything. Based on the standard IONIQ 5, the all-new Hyundai IONIQ 5 N is slightly wider, longer, and sits lower. It’s more sporty on the inside with dollops of premium materials like Alcantara thrown in for good measure. But before one thinks of it as a marginally updated IONIQ 5, Hyundai would be keen to point out that it’s not, considering the major components have been uprated to keep up with the added performance. Wait, what added performance? The onboard twin-motor setup produces an equivalent of up to 600 hp (and can be further boosted to 641, for 10 seconds of added fun), which results in a 0-100 km/h time of just 3.4 seconds. Wait, what?!

IONIQ 5 has done an excellent job in terms of driver engagement, offering a few nifty tricks to help it become more enjoyable for the keen enthusiast

IONIQ 5 has done an excellent job in terms of driver engagement, offering a few nifty tricks to help it become more enjoyable for the keen enthusiast | Photo Credit: Shingiru

Okay, all that sounds good, but how is it any better than the existing EVs? Good question, but to answer that, one needs to experience how the IONIQ 5 approaches the really delicate subject, which is driver engagement. Hyundai has bestowed upon the car a few nifty tricks to help it become more enjoyable for the keen enthusiast, things that weren’t available — or indeed associated with EVs until recently. For instance, there’s Hyundai’s N e-shift, which mimics the gear shifts (from an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox) and makes the process more rewarding. While many would be keen to dismiss this as just paraphernalia, we’re happy to report that in actual use, it works quite well. The experience of driving the IONIQ 5 N is further heightened with another synthesised bit, and that is the N Active Sound+. As you’d have guessed, the switchable feature generates engine noise, and as we found out, it adds another layer of involvement with the car. You soon forget that you’re in an EV...

NGB option

But the most important addition, if slightly weirdly named, is a button marked ‘NGB’ on the steering wheel. Press it, at your own peril, for it transforms the IONIQ 5 N from a well-heeled hot hatch to an angry terrier, with its snout pointing to the next corner’s apex. In practice, for what felt like a gap in the space-time continuum — or 10 seconds as Hyundai folks tell me — the IONIQ 5 N makes available all of its 641 bhp and 755 Nm to the one at the helm. The surge of power is mind-bending, to say the least, but it’s the whole of IONIQ 5 N doing its thing and working so well that, apart from being a scintillating display of modern engineering, it just changes the definition of an EV.

With the ability to decide how much power each end of this EV gets, one can effectively turn the IONIQ 5 from a completely FWD to RWD by sliding a selector on the display. And not just that, it can be done in increments, if you want an AWD car with front or rear bias. User selection at that level is pretty unheard of in conventionally powered cars but this shows how different but driver-focussed EVs can be. And before someone points out the absence of a dedicated ‘Drift’ mode, well, Hyundai has its very own N Drift Optimiser. ‘But what about a clutch kick’... yeah, you can have that, too; just pull both paddles and just like in the PDK-only 991 GT3, voila!

Going the extra mile

Hyundai went the extra mile with the IONIQ 5 N and it shows. It has everything from rally-style axles, an LSD, an upgraded cooling system, large brakes, 275-section sticky Pirelli tyres... the list is long, but none of this seems superfluous. The way everything comes together to offer an experience that’ll make the enthusiast fall in love with it is, in simple words, extraordinary.

Hyundai has shifted the enjoyable EV goal post so far ahead that it’ll take others quite some time to catch up. The only thing they ought to do now is bring it to India, where EV adoption is on the rise, and a high-performance, one-of-a-kind model like this will be appreciated. The IONIQ 5 N has the potential to stun the harshest of EV critics and driving purists with nearly everything it does, and that has never happened before. I do wish the steering had a bit more feel to it, but having experienced many a thing that earlier seemed impossible in an EV, it’s now hard to believe that an OTA update won’t be able to change how connected it feels from behind the wheel. It probably isn’t..

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